Overview

Mike has practiced land use and environmental law for 38 years, and is recognized for his extensive knowledge in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation and compliance. He co-authored the two-volume treatise Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the CEQA treatise most often cited by California courts, which was first published in 1993, has been updated every calendar year since, and is now in its second edition. He is recognized in numerous publications as one of the leading environmental and land use lawyers in California, and he has been named as one of the top 100 Northern California lawyers for the last eleven years.

Unparalleled Experience In Land Use And Environmental Law

Mike represents businesses and public agencies which are navigating California's permitting and environmental impact review processes with the goal of obtaining approval of development projects and plans, and associated environmental impact reports. He also represents businesses and agencies in defending project approvals against land use and environmental lawsuits challenging those approval decisions. 

Supreme Court, Appellate, And Trial Court Litigation Throughout California

Mike has represented clients in land use and environmental cases at all levels of the California courts and throughout the state. He has defended projects approvals against challenges under CEQA, the Planning and Zoning Law, and the initiative and referendum provisions of the Elections Code. He has litigated projects from the North Coast redwood forests to the Sierras to the Colorado River and desert highlands, in addition to downtown and suburban development.

Mike also has substantial experience in negotiating and settling land use disputes, and has reached favorable settlements in numerous matters, including port developments, aggregate and hard rock mines, planned residential communities, and environmental cleanups. He regularly represents clients in both mediations and in private settlement negotiations.

Environmental Impact Compliance And Litigation

Mike has a particular specialty in environmental impact reviews under CEQA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and frequently handles cutting edge CEQA cases. He defended and successfully settled the first CEQA lawsuit over greenhouse gas emissions, the California Attorney General's challenge to the San Bernardino County general plan. He later worked with the County in formulating the greenhouse gas reduction plan and associated environmental impact report pursuant to that settlement.  Most recently, he won a California Supreme Court ruling upholding the greenhouse gas emissions analysis in the EIR for the San Diego Association of Governments regional transportation plan.

State Agency Expertise

In addition to handling entitlement and environmental impact issues in numerous local jurisdictions, Mike has a broad range of experience in handling matters before specialized state agencies. Mike has handled matters before the State Lands Commission, the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, regional water boards, the California Building Standards Commission, the Coastal Commission, the California Historical Resources Commission, and the California Native American Heritage Commission.

Land Use Ballot Measures And Litigation

Mike also advises clients and litigates in the area of land use ballot measures. This includes both the substantive validity of initiatives and referenda, as well as legal issues relating to ballot arguments and signature-gathering. Mike co-authored the Solano Press 1990 text, Land Use Initiatives and Referenda in California.

Experience

  • Obtained a settlement in a CEQA action, on behalf of a citizen opposed to a port authority's expansion project, that provided for various project revisions and payment of attorney's fees.

  • Represented the University of California in the state and federal natural resource permitting for the 10th UC campus to be located on vernal pool grassland habitat in Eastern Merced County.

  • Residential Developments. Represented residential developers and investors in residential projects in obtaining entitlements for development, defending court challenges to such entitlements, and where possible, settling and resolving litigation disputes. Litigation and settlement work includes substantive land use laws, CEQA, and species and habitat planning laws.

  • Solid Waste Projects. Represented a variety of landfills and solid waste facilities in local and state permitting for expansions, additional waste streams, and proposed new landfills, and in trial and appellate court litigation defending such approvals.

  • University Research Campus. For a national research campus, represented university in formulating and defending environmental impact report for 20-year long range development plan. Legal advice on specific development projects. Prevailed in every CEQA challenge filed over 15-year period.

  • Alternative Energy Projects. Defended several wind and solar projects in the central valley and desert regions against environmental impact challenges in federal and state court. Assisted project developers with completion of EIR and EIS documents under NEPA and CEQA.

  • Represented an industry association in an action against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's adoption of new CEQA thresholds, which are widely regarded by expert planners as an obstacle to the goals of encouraging infill and transit oriented development.

  • Secured a victory and resolved a conflict in the Court of Appeal whether opponents of projects found to qualify for an exemption from CEQA must object at a public hearing before the lead agency in order to maintain a legal challenge.

  • Sunol Quarry Litigation. Advised quarry operator on litigation strategy for a ballot measure/CEQA case relating to a proposed quarry expansion in the Sunol area.

  • Town of Windsor Urban Growth Boundary. Prepared the draft of a general plan amendment text for an initiative ballot measure setting an urban growth boundary for the Town of Windsor.

  • Represented a mining developer in successfully permitting a new instream mining project on the Russian River, including an innovative adaptive management program to resolve environmental concerns. Successfully defended the project against CEQA challenges, and settled the litigation on favorable terms.

  • Friends of Sierra Madre v. City of Sierra Madre. Represented the city in the trial court, Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court, in an action regarding the question of whether CEQA applies to council-sponsored ballot measures.

  • Alameda County Measure D Litigation. Represented homebuilders in opposition to Alameda County's Measure D, which established strict urban growth boundary throughout eastern Alameda County. Prepared counter-measure alternative to Measure D, and prosecuted litigation against Measure D through trial court proceedings.

  • City of San Ramon Measure G Litigation. Represented a homebuilder in litigation challenging the application of "Measure G" (amending the general plan to restrict hillside development, among other things) to limit a housing project proposed in San Ramon.

  • El Dorado County Measure Y Litigation. Represented a coalition of property owners in challenging the provisions of Measure Y, a growth control and traffic limitation measure in El Dorado County.

  • Downtown Master Plans & Projects. Represented public agencies and project applicants in permitting and defending urban master planned projects, including substantial downtown retail and mixed-use projects in Northern and Southern California.

  • Public Agency CEQA Compliance & Litigation. Represented a variety of cities, counties, and special districts in CEQA compliance and litigation regarding general plans, specific plans, climate plans and protocols, habitat plans, and agency-sponsored projects, including trial and appellate litigation. Projects have included habitat enhancement developments, water supply facilities, airport and port expansions, rail transit projects, master planned residential projects, and downtown development and redevelopment projects.

  • Transmission Lines & Pipelines. Represented proponents of new transmission lines and pipelines in permitting and CEQA review, and in subsequent CEQA litigation successfully defending project approval.

  • Mining Projects. Represented mining clients in valley, foothill, Sierra and North Coast regions in permitting and defending hard rock, terrace and instream mining projects. Successfully settled CEQA litigation challenges, and prevailed in trial and appellate decisions on other projects.

  • Homebuilders. Represented a variety of homebuilders throughout the state in the permitting and CEQA review for residential development projects. Resolved tribal claims relating to implementation of approved projects. Represent homebuilding organizations in CEQA legislation in Sacramento, and amicus advocacy in appellate courts throughout the state.

  • In-fill Housing Developments. Advised a number of developers regarding in-fill development, including CEQA review, use of CEQA exemptions, and traffic mitigation and related issues.

  • Transportation Projects. Represented tribal government in completing the approval, environmental review, and construction of a new interchange to serve tribal lands. Represented local rail authority in preparing EIR for new rail line, and defending EIR at California Public Utilities Commission against legal challenges.

  • Environmental Cleanups. Advised clients on environmental impact reports for major environmental cleanups, including resolution of environmental mitigation claims.

  • Hospitals and Medical Campus Development. Successfully permitted and defended EIR for new hospital campus in Sonoma County, including defense of land use and CEQA claims. Advised both public and private developers on hospital projects.

  • Solid Waste. Represented a variety of landfills and solid waste facilities in local and state permitting for expansions, additional waste streams, and proposed new landfills.

Insights

News

Speaking Engagements

Publications

Awards & Affiliations

Honors & Recognitions

Best Lawyers, "Lawyers of the Year," 2012, 2014-2017, 2020, 2021, 2023

Best Lawyers, Environmental Law, Land Use and Zoning Law; Litigation-Environmental, Litigation-Land Use & Zoning; Real Estate Law, & Litigation - Real Estate; 2020-2023; ranked in various categories since 2006

National Law Journal, Real Estate/Construction Law Trailblazer, 2020.

Chambers USA, one of California’s leading attorneys in both environmental law and real estate/land use, 2003-2022

San Francisco Environmental Litigator of the Year, 2012

Northern California Super Lawyers, 2004-2021

Top 100 Northern California Super Lawyers, 2007-2020

Who’s Who Legal: Environment 2017-2019

Who’s Who Legal: Real Estate 2016

Legal 500, Land Use/Zoning, 2015

Professional Affiliations

Real Property Advisory Committee, California Continuing Education of the Bar

Center for Law, Energy & Environment, Berkeley Law, Founding Member of Advisory Board

Lambda Alpha (honorary land economics society)

American College of Real Estate Lawyers

California Building Industry Association, Select Conference on Industry Litigation

San Francisco Lawyers Club, Board of Directors, 2001-2003

Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of California, Advisor, 1999-2004; Executive Committee, 1996-1999

Ecology Law Research Institute, Founding Member & Secretary, 1983-1999

Ecology Law Quarterly, Articles Editor, 1982

Legislative Assistant for Energy and Environmental Matters, Representative Bob Carr (D-Michigan) 1977-1979

Community Affiliations

Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland, Board of Advisors, 1997-present; Director, 1986-1996;

Child Care Law Center, Board of Directors, 1999-2008

Bar & Court Admissions

  • State Bar of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Central, Northern, and Southern Districts of California

Education

J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law, 1982

B.A., Dartmouth College, 1977, magna cum laude

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